Friday, July 23, 2010

Robert Cargill hosts a National Geographic DSS documentary

ROBERT CARGILL hosts a National Geographic documentary on the Dead Sea Scrolls, to air on 27 July:
Scholar highlights new research on Dead Sea Scrolls in TV special

After 12 years of researching the Dead Sea Scrolls, UCLA archaeologist Robert Cargill couldn’t believe his luck last January when he finally got to penetrate archaeology’s Holy of Holies — the underground vault beneath the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. There he read from the Isaiah Scroll, the oldest-known copy of any book of the Bible.

"Nobody I know has ever been down there," recalled Cargill, the instructional technology coordinator for UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities and an adjunct assistant professor of Near Eastern Languages and Culture. “As a scholar, it’s as close as you can get to a religious experience.”

The moving moment is captured in an hour-long exploration of new research on the Dead Sea Scrolls that will air next week on the National Geographic Channel. Religious texts dated between 150 BC and 70 AD and written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek on parchment or papyrus, the scrolls include the oldest-known surviving copies of the Bible as well as religious commentary from the flowering of Jewish culture that followed the return from the exile in Babylon.

As the on-air investigator for “Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Cargill talked to nine archaeologists and other scholars who are conducting research that is challenging old assumptions about the authorship of the texts.

Robert Cargill's blog is here. I see also that he has an interesting post on the recent research that argues that the Temple Scroll may have been produced in the vicinity of Qumran based on the chemical composition of the water that went into the scroll. Excerpt:
At roughly 32% salinity, the water in the Dead Sea is nearly 9 times as saline as the oceanic average. Likewise, the Dead Sea has the highest concentration of bromide ions (Br−) of all bodies of waters on Earth. Because of these distinctive properties, the chlorine and bromine levels of the Temple Scroll’s parchment can be used as a way of determining the origin of the parchment. Because the bromine levels matched those distinctively elevated levels of the Dead Sea, the researchers could confidently conclude that the parchment of the Temple Scroll was manufactured at or near the Dead Sea.

The Italian team says it will next use the same XPIXE and particle accelerator technique to test the Temple Scroll’s ink. This is an important test because it is possible that the parchment was cured at or near the Dead Sea, and then sold or transported elsewhere for use by scribes residing in some other region. Qumran has offered evidence of animal husbandry, and appears to have had distillation vats (Locus 121) that may have been used to cure animal hides for the production of parchment. While the existence of inkwells in Locus 30, evidence of animal husbandry (needed for animal skins), and the presence of distillation vats all support the suggestion that scrolls (or at least parchment) were produced at Qumran, it does not necessarily follow that the resulting parchment was inscribed at Qumran. Granted this is somewhat of a minimalist position, but one cannot argue for certain that the Temple Scroll’s parchment was cured at Qumran, only that it was cured using water from the Dead Sea. Likewise, the presence of parchment production facilities (if that’s what they were indeed used for) at Qumran does not necessarily mean that the parchment was inscribed at Qumran, just as the presence of paper at a paper mill does not mean that the paper was used only at the mill. Just as most universities do not produce their own paper, but import it from elsewhere, so too could the parchment used for what became the Temple Scroll have come from the Dead Sea region, but inscribed elsewhere.